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Age Diversity

Mr. Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what assessment he has made of the impact of the code of practice on age diversity in employment on reducing discrimination in the workplace. [122524]

Ms Hodge: The Government have been encouraged by the high level of interest shown by employers, the media, other organisations and individuals in age diversity since the publication of the Code and we have made it clear that the effectiveness of the Code on reducing age discrimination in the workplace will be fully evaluated, with comprehensive findings published early next year.

To this effect an independent organisation, NOP (National Opinion Polls) has been commissioned to carry out a large scale research project in three stages, to help evaluate the effectiveness the Code is having on reducing discrimination. We will be publishing the first and second stage findings of the evaluation in June.

Lone Parents

Ms Kelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how much was spent in each year on the New Deal for Lone Parents; and how many lone parents have benefited from this scheme in each year. [122602]

Ms Hodge [holding answer 18 May 2000]: The full national New Deal for Lone Parents (Phase 3) was implemented on 26 October 1998. It had already been operating in eight prototype areas from July 1997 (Phase 1), and nationally for new and repeat claimants from 6 April 1998 (Phase 2).

The cost of implementing the New Deal for Lone Parents (NDLP) prototype phase 1 areas was £7.9 million. The cost of implementing the national programme has been £58.6 million--broken down as £0.311 million in 1997-98, £22.3 million in 1998-99 and £36 million in 1999-2000. The figure for 1999-2000 is provisional.

Both sums include the cost of project management, the development and provision of IT support, publicity, the cost of evaluation and the costs of NDLP Innovative Pilots.

The numbers of lone parents who have benefited from the scheme are set out in the following table.

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Prototype phase 1 (1)Phase 2 (1)National programme (1)
Initial interviews attended8,10715,193132,880
Number agreeing to participate7,30212,889118,420
Number entering education/training3752,56912,160
Jobs obtained 3,3932,87840,270

(1) July 1997 to October 1998

(1) April 1998 to October 1998

(1) October 1998 to February 2000


Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what his policy is in respect of the practice of dissecting animals for educational purposes in (a) maintained and (b) independent schools. [122941]

Jacqui Smith: There is no requirement in the National Curriculum for dissection to be carried out although individual teachers may choose to use dissection to illustrate various aspects of the science curriculum. In the key stage 3 schemes of work which have been published recently by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, organ dissection is suggested as one of a range of possible teaching activities in some contexts. Where dissection is used, teachers in both state and private schools must always take account of potential threats to the well-being of pupils, particularly in relation to health and safety, religious or ethnic background and individual sensitivities. GCSE and A level exam boards no longer require pupils to undertake dissection for assessment and there should therefore be no pressure on pupils to dissect or watch a dissection. Dissection of living vertebrates and bovine eyeballs is banned in all schools and further directives or advice may be given to teachers by their employers. In maintained schools this is provided by the local education authority, in foundation and voluntary aided schools by the governing body and in private schools by the head teacher or governing body.


Human Rights

38. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the President of the Council what consultations she has held about terms of reference for the Joint Committee on Human Rights. [121917]

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Mr. Tipping: Preliminary consultations on principle have taken place between the usual channels. The House will, of course, have the opportunity to debate the proposed Standing Orders in due course, and I will ensure the motions appear well before the debate. The Government expect to propose very broad terms of reference for the Committee.

Trade Unions

39. Angela Smith: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, when the Commission last met representatives of the recognised trade unions in the House. [121918]

Mr. Kirkwood: It is not the practice of the Commission to engage in direct negotiations with the trade unions. This function has been delegated to the Board of Management; senior staff are in frequent touch with trade union representatives.

Westminster Hall

40. Miss McIntosh: To ask the President of the Council what recent representations she has received on proceedings in Westminster Hall. [121919]

Mrs. Beckett: I have received no recent direct representations.

43. Mr. Paterson: To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on the (a) capital and (b) running costs of the Westminster Hall experiment to date. [121922]

Mrs. Beckett: The capital costs of refurbishment of the Grand Committee Room, brought forward to allow Westminster Hall to function, were given by the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee as £882,000, Official Report, 23 November 1999, column 57W. It is not possible to state precisely how much of this sum is directly attributable to Westminster Hall; some £30,000 was spent on furniture, and a proportion of the professional fees of £71,000 went towards design services. For running costs, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given on 20 March 2000, Official Report, column 456W.

Voting Methods

41. Jean Corston: To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on proposals for reform of the voting methods of the House. [121920]

Mr. Tipping: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson), Official Report, column 860.

Oral Questions

42. Mr. David Heath: To ask the President of the Council if she will recommend to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons that it examines the benefits of reducing the period between tabling oral questions to Ministers and the date for answer. [121921]

Mrs. Beckett: I have no plans to do so.

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Modernisation Committee

44. Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on the progress made to date on reforms proposed by the Modernisation Committee. [121923]

Mrs. Beckett: A full analysis of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons and their implementation is set out in that Committee's First Special Report of Session 1998-99, HC 865. Since that report was published, the Royal Parks (Trading) Bill has been debated in Standing Committee so 48 of the 56 recommendations of the Committee have now been implemented in whole or in part.


Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Chairman of the Information Committee, pursuant to his answer of 4 May 2000, Official Report, column 215W, on voicemail, for what reason he was not able to provide the installation cost; and on what basis the service cost of £92,000 was calculated. [122536]

Mr. Allan: I am advised by the Head of Telecommunications that the voicemail facility currently used by Parliament is purchased as a service from the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA). Since it is a service, and since it is provided globally via Parliament's voice network, there are no site specific installation costs.

The sum of £92,000 can be broken down as follows: megastream rental £8,225 (this provides the connection between Parliament's voice network and the external CCTA managed voicemail system); mailbox rental £37,900 (annual cost--the last quarter has been estimated); applications development and manual £800; and training £45,330.

I am advised that training costs are expected to fall in the current financial year, since the first and major tranche of roll-out to new users is now completed. Mailbox rental costs are expected to increase as the majority of mailboxes will now incur full-year rental costs.

Animal Welfare

Mr. Baker: To ask the Chairman of the Catering Committee what account his Committee takes of animal welfare issues in determining purchasing policy. [122917]

Mr. Dennis Turner: Purchasing policy is essentially a matter for the Refreshment Department. However, I am advised by the Director of Catering Services that the Department's purchasing guidelines include the following provisions related to animal welfare:

1. fresh meats must be sourced from livestock raised under an accredited "farm assurance scheme". Such schemes ensure that all stock is reared according to good animal husbandry and welfare practices. The Department periodically tests the claims of suppliers by requiring them to provide documentary evidence tracing the cut of meat delivered back to source and, where possible, to the animal;
2. fresh meat suppliers must meet standards set by the Meat and Livestock Commission, who provide both detailed and general advice to the Department about animal welfare issues in the meat industry;
3. veal must be from calves raised in group housing systems, not crate systems;

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4. pigmeat supplied to the Department must be from pigs raised in loose-housed systems, not stall and tether systems; and
5. eggs must be from free-range flocks. The supplier is licensed under the RSPCA's Freedom Food Scheme.

The Refreshment Department consults widely with other organisations to ensure that its purchasing guidelines are regularly and authoritatively reviewed. In addition to working closely with the Meat and Livestock Commission, the Department is a member of the Soil Association, and periodically seeks advice from bodies such as the Freedom Food Association, Compassion in World Farming and the NFU.

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